A Highland minister is leading a new campaign to try to persuade people disillusioned by the Church of Scotland’s shifting stance on gay clergy not to leave the denomination.
The Rev Professor Andrew McGowan, of Inverness East Church, claimed the Kirk was facing a “severe crisis” and will today help launch a so-called “Covenant Fellowship”.
It is seeking support from people demoralised by the church’s position on clergy and deacons in same-sex relationships.
The 600-word declaration will offer those who are considering leaving a way of remaining within the Kirk with integrity while calling on people to repent and return the Church of Scotland to its “core beliefs and values”.
The covenant move was unveiled a day after the Rev Dr George Whyte, the Kirk’s acting principal clerk, announced that the majority of 45 presbyteries with voting rights had backed a proposal aimed at keeping the peace between liberal and conservative members.
The so-called mixed economy overture, which will give congregations the freedom to appoint a gay man or woman, will now be referred to the Kirk’s General Assembly in May for final approval.
The debate was triggered by the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeen in 2009.
A total of 18 out of 795 ministers have left the church over the issue but hundreds of ordinary members across the north and north-east have walked out because they believe that sex should only be between a married man and woman.
Mr McGowan, whose presbytery rejected the mixed economy overture, said: “The Church of Scotland is facing a severe crisis over the issue of ministers and deacons in same-sex relationships and many have decided that the only response to this is to leave the church.
“With this covenant, we hope to encourage many more to stay and uphold the teaching of scripture within the national church.”
Mr McGowan said the covenant, which is being launched in Glasgow, was not formed to protest on one issue.
“We are committed to working for the reformation and renewal of the church and so we are calling on it to repent of its current trajectory and to return to its core beliefs and values,” he added.